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Common: The Development of Literary Culture in Sixteenth-Century England$
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Neil Rhodes

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9780198704102

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2018

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780198704102.001.0001

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The Common Stage

The Common Stage

(p.250) 7 The Common Stage
Common: The Development of Literary Culture in Sixteenth-Century England

Neil Rhodes

Oxford University Press

The emergence of the public theatres in England during the last quarter of the sixteenth century reinvigorated the polemics against fiction which characterized the Reformation era. This chapter focuses on the 1590s, when the ‘private’ theatres were closed, and shows Marlowe in dialogue with Gosson as he strives extravagantly to go beyond the common. It then turns to Shakespeare, whose Venus and Adonis rejects the common, but whose most popular play, 1 Henry IV, created its appeal through its deliberate transgressions of rank, while offering a critique of popularity itself. In Hamlet this takes the form of a critique of the commonplace, as the aesthetic of the common stage is challenged by the reopened ‘private’ theatres. At the end of the decade, anthologies such as Bodenham's Belvedere provide a vernacular echo of Erasmus’ compilations at the beginning of the century as vehicles through which the common could achieve literary status.

Keywords:   common player, clothes, public and private, popularity, commonplace, anthology, Stephen Gosson, Christopher Marlowe, William Shakespeare

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